Friday, October 17, 2008

Author of the Week: Deborah Raney

Deborah Raney is a bestselling author of 18 novels (soon to be 21!). She was kind enough to take a break from the keyboard and answer our questions. You can visit Deb on-line at her website:

Welcome, Deb, to Grit for the Oyster:
Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

I’m almost embarrassed to tell about my journey to publication because it was too easy and I don’t want anyone to think this is the way it works. But here’s the story. On New Year’s Day 1994, I started my first novel—sort of a resolution. Finished a short first draft that May, had three contract offers by October. Well, there was that witnessing a murder thing that September…small detour…but bottom line, my first novel came out one year after I wrote the first word, the movie based on my first novel came out the following year, and I’ve been writing ever since. I’m just about ready to dive into a new series—novels #19,20 and 21 for me. I work hard and put in long hours, but I love what I do and can’t think of another thing I’d rather be doing with my life. I think the Lord knew I was NOT a patient person and thus the quick and easy contract. Ironically, you can’t work in the publishing business long without becoming a patient person, so He got me there.

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

Not until the first draft was completed. I wasn’t sure I had what it took to finish the book, so I didn’t dare push my luck. Now I know that with an unpublished author, most publishers require the first draft to be finished before they will contract the book.

What has been the best part about being published?

I love hearing from readers, and meeting readers when I speak and sign books. There is nothing more rewarding—and better at fueling my creative gift—than hearing a reader say how the Lord used your book to touch them or minister to them, or even reprove them.

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

I am what author Alton Gansky calls an “intuitive” writer. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. I occasionally do a little outlining, a few chapters ahead, but for the most part, the story comes to me much the way a person dreams. And sometimes, as in a dream, I find myself saying “where in the world did that come from!” And I delete large sections of type and start over. But I’ve tried to learn to outline, and I’ve learned that I’m just not an outliner. The do-overs are part of the process for me. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Any tips or suggestions for writers?

When I’m on deadline, I’m both. I don’t usually get started until around 10 a.m. I work pretty steadily—with plenty of breaks to check email—until around 3 or 4 p.m. and then I’m done, except for answering reader mail or updating my website or reading research material. If I’m on deadline, I go back to my computer after dinner and work until I can’t keep my eyes open. 

What are your dreams for your writing? Where do you see yourself in five years both as a writer and as a person?

I’ve watched this industry long enough to know that the writer doesn’t usually get to decide when his/her career is over. I’d love to be writing till the day of my death, but I’ve come to a place where I can finally imagine that God may call me to some other task before my time on earth is up. I am trying very hard to enjoy where I am in the journey, hold it lightly, and let His word light my path one step at a time.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

I wish I’d realized that there were books on the craft of writing, that there were writers conferences and workshops and college courses, mentoring programs, organizations. There are so many resources a writer has, especially in this age of the Internet. I had none of those when I started. It was a very solitary undertaking (and I’m a people person!) and I did a lot of things technically wrong and had to unlearn some things.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

There have certainly been some bumps along the way. Rejections, disappointments, sales that weren't as great as I might have hoped, bad reviews, terrible reviews sometimes. But I think I’ve had a smoother sail than most, simply because it didn’t take me years to get that first contract. I certainly have no complaints!

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

My wonderful agent is Steve Laube. I agented myself for the first nine years of my career, and I feel that was the right decision for me. But in the years since, many…most of the publishers have closed their doors to unagented writers. I do recommend that writers seek an agent, especially if they aren’t able to attend at least one major writers conference a year. (Besides teaching people how to write, how to be a writer, writers conferences offer a way through the door for the agentless.)

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I think it’s important for a writer to have a good website once their book is released. Beyond that, I recommend that a writer do only what he/she is comfortable doing beyond writing the best book she can possibly write. It is anybody’s guess how a book becomes a bestseller and while things like book signings, blogging, printed pieces, print advertising, gimmicks, book trailers, speaking, etc., probably give a book a boost, I honestly have not seen any data that says it makes enough of a difference to really matter to the bottom line. Here are the things I’ve enjoyed and felt comfortable doing:
• Keeping an up-to-date website
• Sending out a quarterly e-newsletter
• Blog interviews like this one
• A speaking ministry (with back-of-the-room sales)
• Teaching and critiquing at writers conference
• Occasional print mailings, and bookmarks for giveaway at book signings

Most of the above, I do for me. Because I’m an extrovert and need the contact with people a conference or speaking event offers.

Much of the above, I do in an effort to show my publisher that I am willing to partner with them in promoting my books.

In doing only the above, it is still very, very easy to find myself spending as much time with the business of promoting as I do actually writing. I don’t feel that’s a good expenditure of my time as a writer. But it’s a balance each author has to find for himself. My final word would be to not stress over promotion. Write the best book you can, and let the chips fall where they may.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

Your local Christian bookstore, Barnes and Noble and other “big box” bookstores, online retailers such as,,—in short, anywhere books are sold! If they don’t have it, they will be happy to order it for you. Please ask! That’s one way you can help promote your favorite author! Autographed copies are available at:

Thank you for inviting me! It was my privilege. And yes, I’d love to “meet” your blog readers at my website where there is a contact link to email me, and a place to sign up for my e-newsletter.

Parting words: if you’ve given your gift of writing and your writing career over to the Lord’s very capable hands, you can trust that things will happen in His timing, according to His schedule. That’s a very, very good schedule to be on.

Thank you very much, Deb, for stopping by our blog. We wish you great success!